Michigan Governor declares Flint water safe, ends free bottled water service

April 9, 2018 by  
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Michigan Governor Rick Snyder has announced that Flint water is once again safe to drink, and the state will soon cease the free bottled water service it has provided to Flint residents in the wake of the city’s drinking water crisis. “The scientific data now proves the water system is stable and the need for bottled water has ended,” the office of the Republican governor said in a statement. “Since Flint’s water is now well within the standards set by the federal government, we will now focus even more of our efforts on continuing with the health, education and economic development assistance needed to help move Flint forward.” Residents and local representatives are reportedly hesitant to trust assurances from the same administration that was responsible for the water crisis in the first place. Even though officials declared Flint water  safe based on scientific assessments, the multi-faceted damage caused by the water crisis will be hard to repair. “Governor Snyder has failed to address the psychological trauma that his administration put the people of Flint through,” said Michigan State Representative Sheldon Neeley, who represents much of the majority-black city of 100,000. “The fact is, the people of Flint don’t trust the Snyder administration or the science they pay for — science that previously allowed our city to be poisoned.” Related: 11-year old inventor becomes “America’s Top Young Scientist” for creating lead-detecting sensor Although the city switched from Flint River water to Lake Huron water — the original source of clean water for the city — in 2015, the community remains wary. “I don’t trust the water. Period,” Flint resident Debra Coleman told WJRT local news . “It could be five years from now and I’ll still never drink this water.” While trust remains an issue, some of those responsible for the crisis are now being held accountable. In 2017, six current and former state and local officials were charged for actions that contributed to the crisis. Via Ecowatch and Reuters Images via Depositphotos   (1)

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Michigan Governor declares Flint water safe, ends free bottled water service

The Keystone Pipeline leak was nearly twice as big as we thought

April 9, 2018 by  
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New reports show that nearly twice as much crude oil leaked from the Keystone Pipeline in South Dakota last November than originally estimated. TransCanada spokesperson Robynn Tysver said that roughly 9,700 barrels of oil leaked instead of the estimated 5,000 barrels. This new information means the leak is among the biggest onshore spills in the United States since 2010. There are 42 gallons in one barrel of oil, so instead of 210,000 gallons as was originally estimated, around 407,700 gallons leaked in what TransCanada refers to as the Amherst incident . This means the spill was the “seventh largest onshore oil or petroleum product spills” reported to the United States Department of Transportation since 2010, according to Aberdeen American News. Related: Keystone 1 oil pipeline leaks 210,000 gallons days ahead of Keystone XL permit decision TransCanada started utilizing the pipeline again 12 days following the leak. Tysver told American News, “The remediation work on the property has been completed. We have replaced the last of the topsoil and have seeded the impacted area.” The Amherst incident cost the company around $9.57 million, according to the news publication, citing an updated pipeline safety administration report. TransCanada said on their website they sampled groundwater at 12 monitoring wells and there “was no impact to groundwater.” The Keystone Pipeline connects oil fields in Alberta, Canada to refineries in the United States; Reuters described it as a 590,000 barrel-per-day pipeline. Aberdeen American News said according to a preliminary report, the pipe may have been damaged in 2008, during construction. Reuters said they had reviewed documents revealing Keystone has leaked far more oil, and more frequently, “than the company indicated to regulators in risk assessments” before operations started in 2010. The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration , part of the Department of Transportation, could release the final report on the leak in the upcoming few weeks. Via Aberdeen News and Reuters Images via TransCanada

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The Keystone Pipeline leak was nearly twice as big as we thought

London to combat plastic waste with network of bottle refill points and fountains

January 24, 2018 by  
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London is taking a swing at plastic waste with moves that offer alternatives to plastic water bottles . Instead of buying another container that could end up in a landfill or the ocean , people in the city could use a drinking fountain or refill reusable bottles under a new scheme. The Guardian reports London aims to install 20 new drinking fountains and launch a bottle refill initiative. The Guardian said mayor Sadiq Khan hopes to tackle the plastic problem with a three-year, £750,000 (around $1,048,395) initiative slated to go before the budget committee of the London Assembly later this week. The drinking fountains and refill effort are part of the initiative, as is a move to stop offering plastic utensils, cups, and bottles at City Hall. Related: The world’s population buys one million plastic bottles every single minute The 20 drinking fountains will be put in place beginning this summer; locations haven’t yet been confirmed but deputy mayor for the environment Shirely Rodrigues told The Guardian that potential sites include bustling shopping areas like Oxford Street or Transport for London’s tube stations. More drinking fountains are also under consideration. The Guardian recently published an investigation revealing disparities in the provision of fountains in the city’s boroughs – some areas, like Barnet and Sutton, reportedly don’t have any at all. Under the bottle refill initiative, set to commence in five areas (yet to be announced) in February and March, businesses would make tap water available to the public. They will be able to locate places providing free tap water via window signs or an app. If the effort is successful, it could launch in the rest of London this summer. One movement working with the mayor is the Zoological Society of London-led #OneLess campaign . They will be supplying fountains and will scrutinize whether or not the moves do reduce the amount of plastic that ends up in the environment. According to #OneLess, “Londoners are among the highest users of bottled water in the UK. The average London adult buys 3.37 plastic water bottles every week – that’s 175 every year per person, and over a billion per year on a city level. Sadly, many of these end up in the River Thames and flow out to the ocean.” Via The Guardian Images via Depositphotos ( 1 , 2 )

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London to combat plastic waste with network of bottle refill points and fountains

New rooftop solar hydropanels harvest drinking water and energy at the same time

November 29, 2017 by  
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Sunlight + Air = Water . It’s a seemingly befuddling equation, but it’s at the heart of a new solar hydropanel developed by Arizona-based startup Zero Mass Water . Called SOURCE, the panels can be installed atop any building just like a standard photovoltaic, but instead of just harvesting solar energy, it uses the sun’s rays to pull water from the air. Indeed, each panel has the potential to draw up to 10 liters (2.64 gallons) of water per day. So how does it work? Each SOURCE array consists of a standard solar panel flanked by two hydropanels. As explained by The Verge in the video above, the photovoltaic at the center of the array drives a fan and the system’s communication with the hydropanels. The hydropanels themselves consist of two different proprietary materials, one that can generate heat, and another that can absorb moisture from the air. Together they are able to condense water into an onboard, 30-liter reservoir where it is mineralized with calcium and magnesium. From there, the water can be siphoned directly to a drinking tap. As one might guess, the amount of humidity in the atmosphere and solar energy available will affect the payout. However, Zero Mass Water says that even low-humidity and arid regions can effectively benefit. The company’s CEO, Cody Friesen, cited the array atop his headquarters as an example. “Our array on the Zero Mass Water headquarters in Scottsdale, Arizona makes water year-long despite low relative humidity. The Phoenix-Metro area can get below 5% relative humidity in the summer, and SOURCE still produces water in these incredibly dry conditions,” he said. Additional panels can also be added to optimize water collection, but there is the matter of cost. Right now, the two-panel array costs $4000, plus installation, which runs $500. The whole system has been engineered to last 10 years, which according to  Treehugger ’s calculations, this averages out to about $1.23 per day, or between $0.12 and $0.30 per liter of H2O. To date, hundreds of panels have been set up in eight countries around the globe. Zero MassWater says the installations represent a combination of early adopters who have paid out of pocket for the technology and developing areas and emergency situations where funding has been provided by donors, NGOs, or other institutions. +  Zero Mass Water Via Treehugger  and  The Verge Images via Zero Mass Water

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New rooftop solar hydropanels harvest drinking water and energy at the same time

The Rise of the Plastic Water Bottle

September 7, 2017 by  
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One of my biggest pet peeves is plastic water bottles. Why are we paying for something that is free? When did it become weird to carry around your own reusable water bottle? When I was a kid, single-use water bottles weren’t a thing. I grew…

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The Rise of the Plastic Water Bottle

Chicago drinking fountains have been running non-stop for months, and the reason why is infuriating

July 31, 2017 by  
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For the past few months, drinking fountains in Chicago have been running non-stop because the water pipes there contains “dangerously high” lead levels. Ingesting excess levels of lead   (and just to be clear, health officials say no amount of lead exposure is safe ) can cause symptoms such as constipation, vomiting, developmental disabilities, hyperactivity, irritability, insomnia and memory loss. So to address the issue, the city has simply disabled the “push” buttons to let the fountains flow freely, reducing the hazardous levels of lead that actually make it into the water. In April of 2016, WBEZ began investigating the suspicious act of allowing the faucets to flow freely. This week, investigative journalists finally received answers. Reportedly, 450 Chicago park fountains contain “dangerously high” lead levels — with some spouting water with levels 80 times higher than the EPA limit. As a result of the action taken, 450 fountains met EPA standards. However, 107 were still contaminated with lead , which is why officials plan to keep them flowing until mid-fall. An additional 100 or so will be running round-the-clock for “spring flushing” to clear the pipes after winter. While a temporary solution has been found, one cannot ignore the environmental travesty which is occurring by allowing hundreds of faucets to flow freely for not just days, but months on end. For every spigot that is left on, nearly 600 gallons of drinking water are wasted each day. It’s exactly because of this expense that Chicago spent hundreds of thousands of dollars installing on-and-off buttons on the fountains in 2003. Unfortunately, city officials did not plan for lead contamination . Related: Abandoned fountain transformed into a pop-up urban spa in Mexico For now, district officials say they will continue testing and monitoring mountains throughout the summer with rapid detection tests. Fountains that are found to contain high levels of lead will have their samples followed up with additional lab analyses. All in all, plan on packing some purified, spring water if you intend on visiting a Chicago park in the near future. Via WBEZ Images via Pixabay and Deposit Photos

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Chicago drinking fountains have been running non-stop for months, and the reason why is infuriating

Trump’s EPA moves to kill Obama’s Clean Water Rule

June 28, 2017 by  
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In the battle of Trump vs the environment, the latter is definitely losing. Regulations giving the federal government better ability to protect our precious streams and wetlands were essentially killed yesterday after Trump’s EPA took the first step in repealing the Clean Water Rule set into motion by Obama in 2015. The rule would have protected the navigable waterways and  drinking water of 1 in 3 Americans. Oil ally Scott Pruitt, head of the EPA, said: “We are taking significant action to return power to the states and provide regulatory certainty to our nation’s farmers and businesses.” However, the Rule was passed in 2015 specifically to address regulatory certainty. Before the Rule, the federal government’s ability to regulate pollution in certain waters was unclear. Related: EPA chief says carbon dioxide is not a ‘primary contributor’ to global warming The Clean Water Rule was put in place to help clarify those convoluted regulations that inadequately protected the nation’s waterways. The Obama administration put the regulation in place after 1,200 peer reviewed studies were completed, and recommendations were formed to protect the country’s waterways from pollution. But industry chafed at the regulation, claiming it was onerous, and it was put on hold after 13 states sued the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers. Trump ordered the EPA to review the rule, calling it, in his typically eloquent style, “horrible, horrible” and a “massive power grab.” Via ThinkProgress images via Unsplash and Gage Skidmore  

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Bee-killing pesticides have been found in US drinking water

April 7, 2017 by  
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We’ve known that neonicotinoid insecticides are bad news for bee populations for several years now, but one thing we don’t know about these pesticides is how they impact human health. A new study from the US Geological Survey and the University of Iowa reveals how terrifying that question could be, revealing minute traces of neonicotinoid chemicals are present in at least some drinking water in the US. In the study, published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology Letters , researchers took samples from two water treatment plants in Iowa. Though many might assume waste treatment plants would be able to remove pesticides from drinking water, trace amounts of the neonicotinoids were still present after passing the water through the facilities’ carbon filtration systems. Granted, the amounts present ranged from 0.24 to 57.3 nanograms per liter, which Gizmodo describes as “like a single drop of water plopped into 20 Olympic-size swimming pools.” The amount is obviously incredibly small, but unfortunately scientists have no idea whether the residue that remains in drinking water could potentially impact human health. The Environmental Protection Agency has set no regulatory limits on the use of these substances, saying that previous studies have shown they have only low rates of adverse health effects for humans. There’s a catch, though – those older studies only looked at brief exposure to high concentrations of neonicotinoids. It’s still unknown whether low-level chronic exposure could result in long-term health problems. Related: Over 700 North American bee species are heading towards extinction Ideally, more research would be done to learn more about the effect these chemicals have on human health. But with Donald Trump and his cabinet attempting to loosen regulations on industries that pollute the environment and hobbling critical environmental research, it may be a few years before we know for certain whether low levels of neonicotinoids are harmful or not. Via Gizmodo Images via Pixabay ( 1 , 2 )

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Republicans axe rule that would have kept coal pollution out of waterways

February 3, 2017 by  
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This week, Republicans began the process of dismantling Barack Obama’s recent environmental regulations by rolling back the 2016 stream protection rule , which would have prevented coal companies from dumping mining waste into waterways. A little-known law called the Congressional Review Act allowed the House and Senate to overturn the rule before it was able to even take effect. Worse yet, according to the Act, similar legislation can’t be introduced in the future without Congressional approval. The rule was intended to minimize the environmental impact of surface mining , which can contaminate waterways and leave them toxic for nearby populations which depend on them for drinking water . The Interior Department estimated it would have protected 6,000 miles of streams and 52,000 acres of forest across the US. Related: Trump may gut the Endangered Species Act So why would the Republicans kill a rule that protects their constituents from toxic pollution? According to Congress, keeping coal debris away from water is causing the mining industry to go into massive decline. If that sounds like a flimsy justification, it is – as Vox explains , the decline of the coal industry is related to the rise in cheap natural gas in the US market, not environmental regulations. While this move may seem ominous for environmentalists, it’s important to keep the larger picture in perspective. This rule was mostly chosen by Republicans because it was an easy target and there was a simple way to overturn it. Other conservative goals, like abolishing the EPA or gutting the Endangered Species Act , will take significantly more time and effort to accomplish simply because they’re already well-established and entrenched in our government. Via The New York Times Images via Wikimedia Commons and Jennifer Woodard Maderazo

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Republicans axe rule that would have kept coal pollution out of waterways

Scientists discover 52-million-year-old tomatillo fossil

February 3, 2017 by  
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While not quite as charismatic as those of dinosaurs , vegetable fossils can provide game-changing insight into modern plants and their evolutionary process. A team of scientists led by paleobotanist Peter Wilf of Penn State University discovered fossils of tomatillos, that delicious relative of the tomato that is a key ingredient in salsa verde, in the Patagonia region of Argentina . Using atomic age dating techniques, the team determined that the newly discovered primordial tomatillos are about 52-million years old, at least 12 million years older than previously thought. Although the site where the fossils were found is now a cold and arid environment, the ancient tomatillos thrived in a very different climate. “The plants that generated these fossils were alive in a temperate rain forest next to a volcano,” said Richard Olmstead, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Washington. “When it finally snapped together [that] we were looking at a fossil tomatillo, it was quite shocking. It was disbelief. It was joy coupled with disbelief.” The tomatillo is a member of the nightshade family, which includes tomatoes, peppers, potatoes, eggplants, and tobacco. The recently discovered fossils are the most intact and earliest examples of nightshade to date. “It’s a tremendous find. It provides insight totally absent from the fossil record and our understanding of the family prior to this,” said Olmstead. Related: Scientist finds dinosaur tail trapped in amber – and it’s covered with feathers Wilf and his team have given the species name  infinemundi,  Latin for “at the end of the world,” to its tomatillo specimen in reference to both where it was discovered and the era in which it lived. “It’s a nod to the modern and ancient location,” said Wilf “It’s at the edge of Argentina, so the end of the world that way. And it’s at the end of this time in Earth history.” This ancient tomatillo would have lived on the edge of major geologic and climatic changes , including the rise of the Ande s Mountains and the retreat of tropical biomes. These disruptions would have set the stage for the great diversity that emerged from the nightshade family, which includes over 2,400 extant species today. Via NPR Images via Flickr  and Killy Ridols

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